Massimo Magee: sopranino saxophone (either regular or with pickled reed, tabletop-style, electronics, radio or on a VCR tape)
Only 123 copies of this, one of the finest albums enjoyed in a good while. And, aside from a typically shallow writeup elsewhere, not a line found to praise the contents of such an intense record. But who am I to talk, after all? Before yesterday, this writer had read Magee’s name dozens of times, never attempting to venture beyond the “namesake empathy” level. More fool me. The guy is a serious, serious artist – just look at what he writes to explain his views on free music, then resume reading this review.
See what I mean? Immediate affection over here. Then again, you may hit upon Magee’s photo from 2007, playing the sopranino while bent on a rock somewhere in the open country, the wind blowing through long black hair under the blue sky. The image of an individual interiorly, and consciously, allied to the cosmos as everybody should ideally be. No time or place, no mundane bullshit to take care of. The “now”, the sound and the reaction to it, stillness in between – the real silence, not that enforced by the necessities of fashionable vainness. (Hell, I’ll even forgive the painted nails spotted in a much noisier context on Vimeo).
A similar sense of connectedness is elicited by these four tracks, all of them communicating severe urgency, raw beauty and utter intelligence at once. Not a note wasted in the “regular” solos (“Instant” and “Pickled”): off-center melodies and multiphonic adventurousness cutting our watchful approach to shreds, the caustic chirping of über-evolved birds meshed with the strained cries of a tormented soul. Then a mini-treatise on how rendering Xenakis-like scrambled massiveness as the most logical of proposals (“Confusion”), and – to end the whole with additional acridness – “Post-Instrumentalism”, namely a VCR tape containing the corrupted relics of another solo, a distressed griminess characterizing the purest intents.
Make no mistake, Magee might blow your socks off if he chose to. However, this is not mere skronk-and-scream rubbish; Sopranino Solo truly can stand, and proudly, with the milestones of current improvisation. And if you are smart as I have become in the last 24 hours, do yourselves a favor and download – gratis! – this 26-disc set. Don’t forget to get a copy of this CDR first, though. Trust the antipodean Massimos.